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Poetry workshop for young people of South Asian heritage in Doncaster (16-25)

Calling young people of South Asian heritage (16 to 25yrs) in Doncaster who’d like to try something new and empowering in the form of poetry & spoken word!

With the support of writer Vicky Morris from Hive South Yorkshire, come along to a poetry workshop and have a go at writing poems with a view to performing something at the Open Mic Mehfil event taking place as part of Alchemy Doncaster – a South Asian cultural festival from the Southbank Centre taking place at Cast Theatre Doncaster on 3rd June (details here).

You don’t have to think you’re a great writer to attend and Vicky will help you build the confidence to write something you’re proud of and read in front of a live audience (although there is no pressure to perform at the event!)

We want to hear and celebrate the diversity of young voices in South Yorkshire at the festival, particularly local young people of South Asian heritage.

Interested!? Drop Iram a line at iram@hivesouthorkshire.com to put your name down or find out more.

Bring friends! FREE | Refreshments provided | Open to all levels and abilities.
Workshop: Saturday 29th April at Cast in Doncaster, 2 to 4pm.
If you are unable to attend but would still like to get involved, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you! 

In partnership with Cast in Doncaster

 

Open Mic Mehfil at the Alchemy Festival at Cast in Doncaster

Open Mic Mehfil at the Alchemy Festival at Cast in Doncaster – FREE | 3rd June | 4pm to 5.30pm

Calling young writers and word-lovers from across South Yorkshire, (particularly of South Asian heritage), bring your words and join us at the Alchemy on Tour Festival at Cast in Doncaster on 3rd June as part of a daylong celebration of South Asian culture.

If you write poems, tell stories, compose lyrics, spit bars, or have anything else to say out loud to a supportive audience, this is an event to celebrate your words, ideas and talents in a warm atmosphere.

The day and evening will be jam-packed with something for the whole family (see below line up), and at 4pm the Open Mic Mehfil will open its mic to young voices from across the region. The event is open to all young people in South Yorkshire (14 to 25), both new and experienced performers, and we’re particularly keen to hear from young people of South Asian heritage.

Our special guest at the Open Mic Mehfil is spoken word poet, activist, and original member of Leeds Young Authors, Saju Ahmed.

Interested? Either, drop us a line to reserve a definite slot, or put your name down at the start of the event (slots limited).

If you’re a young person of South Asian heritage (16 to 25yrs) from in or around Doncaster, why not come to a poetry writing workshop (no experience necessary!) with Hive at Cast to pen your first poem to read at the event. Details here.

To reserve a definite slot or find out more, email Iram Ahmed: iram@hivesouthyorkshire.com
(Facebook event to follow mid-May)

About the Alchemy Festival day 3rd June

Alchemy Doncaster (31st May to 3rd June 2017) a festival from  the Southbank Centre celebrating the diverse range of cultures and arts from the South East Asian region. The festival, which started life at Southbank Centre in London, embarks on a tour every two years. Cast in Doncaster is proud to have hosted the festival in 2015, and again now in 2017.

On Saturday 3rd June the festival will take over the whole of the Cast building with a jam-packed programme of events for the whole family starting with fun, music and drummers in the square outside. In the main space, Aagrah Restaurant will host a cooking demonstration. For children there’ll be Bhangra Tots and a Storytelling event in the Dance Space and Drama Studio. For adults there’ll be a Mosaic making workshop.

Headline Alchemy Doncaster is an electrifying night of international hip-hop as artists from South Asia and the UK mix rhymes to sound system beats, against a backdrop of video art in Beats Without Boundaries. The line-up of artists feature rapper Black Zang, host of the first ever hip-hop radio show in Bangladesh,  Ashanti De Alwis, the first Sri Lankan female rapper to be signed with Sony Music and Universal Musi alongside Paradise, Afghanistan’s first female rapper, and partner Diverse, who make tracks speaking out for women’s rights in Afghanistan. From India comes pioneer of feminist rap Dee MC, and Naezy, whose popularity has soared thanks to his music about politics and poverty.

In Cast’s Second Space Sacred Sounds, will highlights the role of Sikh soldiers in the First World War set against spoken word and religious Sikh music. Bilal Zafar, an up and coming British Pakistani comedian, will also do some evening stand up.

Also in the evening, Cast Associate Artists Target Theatre company will be presenting a reading of their new play Made. Southbank Centre will be hosting their participation piece called Mother Tongues from Farther Lands which explores stories of women.

(For more information visit here)

Saju Ahmed was encouraged to do spoken word poetry at 16 through Leeds Young Authors when he was close to getting kicked out of sixth form. He said, at the time he thought – ‘Poetry’s not for me. I’m more Nas and Tupac so I won’t find the connection.’ But connect he did, and poetry was the catalyst for his liberation.

In the 12 years since, Saju has achieved great things in the realm of spoken word poetry. He’s competed in many slams at local and international level to huge audiences, including Brave New Voices Poetry Slam in America, in which his team came 2nd in the world in 2009. He was one of the featured poets in the award winning We Are Poets documentary, and in Dyslexia and Loving Words, which explores what it is to be a successful dyslexic wordsmith (YouTube).

Over the years, Saju has hosted slams and run workshops with younger writers to help them find and develop their voice. He currently mentors younger poets through Leeds Young Authors who are due to go on tour in Miami in February 2017.

Saju has appeared in the BBC Radio 1xtra Live Lounge with Trevor Nelson, ABC in America in an interview with Janice Edward, FOX News with the Chicago Peace Movement, the Olympic torch ceremony Leeds 2012, the Tour de France in Yorkshire 2014, and at the Rugby World Cup at Hadley Stadium.

In partnership with Cast in Doncaster

Main image taken from – The Youth Word Up at Off the Shelf Festival of Words 2016

 

Interview with horror writer, Simon Bestwick

As a young writer currently enjoying the discovery of every kind of prose out there, I often find myself drawn to the weird and wonderful. I confess to a fascination with anything creepy and bleak, and exploring the darker side of things through words captivates me. So, who better for me to interview than, prolific horror writer Simon Bestwick. Simon is author of a impressive 5 novels including, The Faceless, Tide of Souls and the Black Road series, 6 novellas and numerous short stories.

I’m very grateful to Simon for taking time out to chat after a morning of leading workshops for Hive recently. I loved our exchange and I hope you benefit from his words of wisdom as much as I have.

Here, among other things, Simon gives a fascinating insight into the processes of writing short stories and novels in the realm of horror, some excellent advice for young and aspiring writers, and a really honest peek into how he became the writer he is today.

Louisa Rhodes 

So, you’re a horror writer, how did your journey take shape?

I think the horror was always there. I always liked those kind of stories. There’s a lot of overlap with horror and other areas of literature. And I grew up watching Doctor Who and a lot of science fiction and horror too. My granddad had this fantastically huge book called ‘A Century of Thrillers’, from Poe to Arlen from about 1929, and it was chock full of the greats; loads of Edgar Allen Poe, Algernon Blackwood and Ambrose Bierce.
I’ve always written. I wanted to be an actor as well, and later a director. I wanted to do the act-star-direct sort of thing, which few people can really pull off. I did a media performance degree at Salford Uni so I got a bit of both, and coming out of that I worked out that writing was more my thing. I fell away from script writing towards prose. If you write a script you need to get actors and directors and money, whereas if you write a story you just need your fingers and a keyboard. That was about ’96, and I wrote my first stories in ’97 and started sending them out to the small press magazines. You’d get a free copy and if you were lucky you might get a cheque for enough to buy a Chinese takeaway. At first, it was one short story a week, now I write daily – it’s been about 20 years.

What were your stories like to begin with?

It was Boxing Day ’96 – I remember it clearly – I had just reached that point where I knew how dreadful I was and I just wanted to write one good thing. I didn’t care about my ego anymore it was just about the sense of fulfilment that you got from writing. So, I wrote this small story called Once, which was published in this small press mag. I knew as soon as I’d finished it that I’d finally written something real that had some truth to it, some soul. And it was kind of like the lights went on – that’s how you do it. You have to be humble. It’s the great paradox; if you want to produce stuff that people will actually admire, then that has to be the last thing on your mind when you’re writing it. You have to be thinking about the story and whatever truth that story’s actually about. After that I was banging out about a story a week, and eventually graduated to longer works. I had my first story collection in 2004.

You have to be humble. It’s the great paradox, if you want to produce stuff that people will actually admire, then that has to be the last thing on your mind when you’re writing it. You have to be thinking about the story and whatever truth that story’s actually about.

So, did you write at all in school, was there any encouragement there?

I had some very good English teachers. The one that gave me the most encouragement was David Bradley. I think he’s actually an MBE now. He would read scads of stuff from me and critique it. I was very, very lucky to have that. Later, I went to an FE college for an acting course, and they had a playwright who visited, and he critiqued some of my work, and that was very helpful.

I wrote about three novels between ages of fifteen and seventeen, all very bad, but each was I think, I hope, a little less bad than the one before it. Then I got more interested in script writing for a time.

When you leave college and you have to work, it’s kind of, well if you want to call yourself a writer you actually have to do it. The beginning was a bad time for me because I knew what I was writing was dreadful.  I was writing stuff with the sort of sense that I want everyone to be so impressed with me and think I’m so wonderful, and that makes your work very self-conscious and strained. There’s no heart, no centre to it.

I was writing stuff with the sort of sense that I want everyone to be so impressed with me and think I’m so wonderful, and that makes your work very self-conscious, and strained. There’s no heart, no centre to it.


So, you started off writing short stories. Do you prefer shorter stories or novels?

Good question. At the beginning, I loved shorts stories, absolutely – you just sit down and write it. I would potter around, noodle ideas about this or that and whack one out in a night. Whereas a novel requires a different kind of commitment. For me now, a novel now is easier to write in a way because it’s just like this big ongoing project. I have my outline and I just sit down and hit keys until I’ve reached two and a half thousand words which is my usual target. Short stories have actually become more difficult to write in that sense.

So, you said you write 2,500 words a day?

That’s the usual target, yeah.

Do you normally just sit down and write or do you ever have any writing exercises?

From time to time I will use writing exercises if I’m just in a bit of a rut or feeling a bit like I’m not really doing anything. I used to do morning pages, which is an exercise invented by Julia Cameron in a book called ‘The Right to Write’. Essentially, it’s just timed writing, which is something that Natalie Goldberg covers in ‘Writing Down the Bones’. Those are two books which are very, very useful to someone who’s trying to just get stuff out their head and onto the page.

Even if you can’t think of anything to write you just write – I can’t think of anything to write rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rubbish rubbish rubbish. Sooner or later something will come up.  And it’s because you don’t give yourself time to consciously think stuff. You can ask yourself questions while writing and the response to it comes because you haven’t got time to second guess or self-censor.

From time to time I will use writing exercises if I’m just in a bit of a rut or feeling a bit like I’m not really doing anything. I used to do morning pages, which is an exercise invented by Julia Cameron in a book called ‘The Right to Write’. Essentially, it’s just timed writing, which is something that Natalie Goldberg covers in ‘Writing Down the Bones’.

Do you talk to people about your writing or show your work to other people?

On rare occasions when I’m not quite certain if I’m achieving what I set out to achieve. Another time is when it’s a question of research. Like for example, I used to be friends with an ex-army guy. A lot of the stuff in Hell’s Ditch and more recently Devil’s Highway has a fair bit of action in it, and you want to get that side of things right. So, he would read over it and be able to give me thoughts, particularly on the military mindset.

He said, the main thing you need to work on here is how soldiers actually think, how they look at things and react to stuff. If you can get that down, then you’ve pretty much got it. I think it was Hell’s Ditch when I gave it to him I said, “Oh there’s nothing major”, and then a couple of days later I said “just waiting for your notes”. And he said “yeah, there’s nothing!” It’s a bit worrying though that I can in theory plan some sort of military assault – don’t for god’s sake put me in charge of anything like that!

I think it was Hell’s Ditch when I gave it to him I said, “Oh there’s nothing major”, and then a couple of days later I said “just waiting for your notes”. And he said “yeah, there’s nothing!” It’s a bit worrying though that I can in theory plan some sort of military assault – don’t for god’s sake put me in charge of anything like that!

I lost touch with him by the time I did Devil’s Highway.  It’s one of the biggest things in terms of action that I’ve done. It revolves around this huge battle scene, which I’ve never done before. There’re lots of points of views, lots of different characters, lots going on. So of course, you have to try and work out the whole strategic element of it – they attack so they get pushed back so they try this and they try that so you have to work out all these moves and counter moves. And then you have to tell it through the individual experiences of all these people who are caught up in it. It was one of the few books of mine that my wife hasn’t really liked, she said it was a bit too heavy on ‘shooty bang sticks’ as she puts it. I was thinking a little bit of Black Hawk Down when I wrote that, and she hated Black Hawk Down, so there was the problem right away!

Luckily, a writer on a workshop I did, her dad is actually a former Royal Marine Commando and something of an expert, with a good sense of humour as well, so he read the whole thing and was able to give his thoughts. It’s quite funny because in the Black Road books people are mainly using weapons from the past like World War II surplus guns and stuff from the 1980s. So, they’re using sterling submachine guns which were the British army submachine guns from back then, which I’d had the impression were considered a reasonably good piece of equipment. He said they were considered one step above throwing stones!

I will try to be my own toughest critic and my own toughest editor and get it as close as I can to some kind of finished product before I let people see it.

I will try to be my own toughest critic and my own toughest editor and get it as close as I can to some kind of finished product before I let people see it.

That’s interesting. You mentioned Hell’s Ditch and Devil’s Highway – which of your novels do you like the most?

That’s like making me chose my favourite child!

Which was the most interesting to write?

They were all interesting in different ways. With Tide of Souls, I had a dozen bottom draw novels up to that point, but most of them I’d said I need to rewrite that, but then draw a line underneath and never come back to it, but with Tide of Souls I basically had very good inspiration in terms of four grand, two grand up front, two grand on completion and six months to write it. I probably learned more about the craft, if not the art, of writing a novel, in those six months than in the years waiting for the muse to tell me what to do.

Part of the pleasure there was that I actually did it, I actually wrote a novel. It was a zombie novel, and I wanted it to be more than just a bog-standard zombie novel. I wanted it to be a book that I had written, an actual novel by me, that just happened to have zombies in it. I thought it would do quite badly because the kind of people who might like it, would be put off by the lurid zombie cover and the fact that it’s a book of zombie stories, and the people who would actually read it would think ‘oh this is some sort of pretentious highbrow crap’. As it turned out it was one of their most popular titles in that series, and I got a four-star review in the Daily Telegraph, so I did something right there!

I wanted it to be a book that I had written, an actual novel by me, that just happened to have zombies in it. I thought it would do quite badly…. As it turned out it was one of their most popular titles in that series, and I got a four-star review in the Daily Telegraph, so I did something right there!

My second novel is The Faceless, which was a very tough book to write in some respects because it was based around the suffering of the First World War, and particularly the aftermath. There were many soldiers who suffered terrible psychological and emotional damage, and there was an awful lot of the physical scars – people lost limbs. World War I produced a huge number of people with massive facial injuries, because of the trenches and steel helmets. The helmet would prevent a fatal head injury, but you would be horrified to see how much of somebody’s face can be destroyed and they’re still alive. I saw pictures while researching that were absolutely horrific beyond anything I could have created out of pure imagination.

These people, not all of them – I doubt many of them lived particularly long lives – but these people had to live with that damage. A lot of early facial reconstruction techniques were pioneered after World War I.  You want to try and do justice to that. And it was something when I was working to write the best possible novel that I could, that left me exhausted by the end of it. So, that one means a great deal to me.

These people, not all of them – I doubt many of them lived particularly long lives – but these people had to live with that damage. A lot of early facial reconstruction techniques were pioneered after World War I.  You want to try and do justice to that.

Hell’s Ditch is the first thing I had published that wasn’t written to a commission. In the past, it’s always been throw some ideas at a publisher, ooh I’ll have that one, here’s your advanced cheque and off you go. Whereas, Hell’s Ditch was something I wrote because I wanted to write it, I wanted to write the Black Road books, so that has a particular place in my heart. And of course, Devil’s Highway is part of that and is hitting its stride and getting into the flow now.

A Feast of All Souls is kind of a step back from before, it’s an attempt to write something a little bit gentler, a little more varied in colour. A lot of my stuff has been very dark and relentless, but life isn’t just about that, there’s a warmer, wider, more varied essence. I’m not quite sure though how well I succeed in The Feast of All Souls, because whenever when I want to write a happy ending it comes out bleaker than I intended.

So, which is my favourite? Oh god! I really, really want to say I love them all; probably I’d say Hell’s Ditch because it’s the first one I wrote purely for the love. But that’s only if you put a gun to my head, that’d be my answer.

I quite like writing weird or darker stories as well. I think there’s something fascinating about that and I think maybe not the bleakness but the darkness kind of mirrors the world, from a pessimistic view, a little. I don’t know; what is it that you like about the bleak stuff?

There’s always been a bit of social commentary in my stuff, an eye to stuff that’s going on. Horror is a way that you can interpret events in terms of nightmare; in real life, we don’t want to experience the worst-case scenario, we don’t even want to imagine the worst-case scenario. In a novel, you can, and in fiction you can explore that stuff as far as it goes and there’s a catharsis in that.

Horror is a way that you can interpret events in terms of nightmare; in real life, we don’t want to experience the worst-case scenario, we don’t even want to imagine the worst-case scenario. In a novel, you can, and in fiction you can explore that stuff as far as it goes and there’s a catharsis in that.

I find we always put a little bit of ourselves in our writing

Oh yeah. A little bit? Sometimes more than a little.

Yeah definitely. So, you’ve written all these novels, but character is often a big thing. What’s your most interesting or most challenging character?

I think one I found very difficult was a character called Danny Holme, in a novella I wrote called The School House. That was a difficult story to write, for a number of reasons. It was for an anthology called Houses on the Borderline – haunted houses of some kind and you could take it in any direction.  My title was The School House and my school days were extremely unhappy; I was pretty horrendously bullied for 7 years. One of the things that was very much on my mind as I wrote it was that an awful lot of my characters have a thing about breaking away from their past, and there was this realisation that so much of what I am and who I am has been shaped by that, for good or ill. And my life may well have been different if I hadn’t had that.

And I was on a train ride when I went past this huge building that was actually a hospital but I saw it as a school house, and that was the title of my story. And this idea came along at some point that, well, I didn’t want to write a straight forward ghost story. I wanted there to be something more solid and physical, but not like a psycho horror story where someone is just hacking people to death. I wanted it, I think it needed, to have an almost nightmarish feel, almost like a David Lynch movie, because it would be the only way to get that kind of effect. And the idea was that if your physical appearance reflected your psyche, then these horrifically mutilated figures would be what their souls were like and what this dreadful place that had turned them into. So, Dan Holme became this sort of character – he’s an orderly at a private exclusive psychiatric home – and one of his patients turns out to be an old school fellow. And there is a process that starts to unlock a lot of his memories from his school days, at the same time as these other more weird and supernatural things happen; it becomes very surreal and the psychiatric hospital and the school seem to become interchangeable.

In The Faceless I had to write a scene featuring Gideon Dace and I was trying to write a horror novel without villains, if that makes sense. The supernatural threat in The Faceless isn’t evil in terms of what it’s trying to do even though it’s very destructive; it’s born out of suffering and cruelty and exploitation. The problem is that there has to be a cause for all that and the person who is responsible is Gideon Dace. And I was facing a character who, if they had any redeeming features, I was buggered if I could find any or knew what they were. And so I had to write this scene where he comes face to face with somebody and he has a moment to justify himself – I wouldn’t say that was easy to write.

That’s interesting. It’s sort of a more removed genre, horror, but in a way that makes it more true to life.

The best stuff I think in that field is effective because it touches on stuff that’s very, very close to us all. There is very little more personal than fear.

There is very little more personal than fear.

Okay, now big question you always get from young writers – what would you say to young and emerging writers who want to go somewhere with their writing?

Run, run away now! No, I’m joking. One of the big things of course is to persevere. Never give up. Write as much as you can, as often as you can, build a routine into your life. Make time, if you can every day, to write. At the same time know when you need to break those rules a little bit because you need to have enough structure to write regularly and enough spontaneity that you’ve actually got a life where things are happening and you’ve got stuff to write about. You can’t have one without the other.

Don’t stop because things are difficult. Read very widely, both within the field you’re interested in and out of it. In horror, one of the big ones is H P Lovecraft, a great insight into the genre and the time he was writing. But also read widely outside the genre. Don’t just be playing a couple of piano keys, a couple of instruments, when you’ve got access to the whole orchestra! I mean, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a long way away from anything I’ve written but I love that book. I would love to be able to write something as rich and funny as that. I doubt I ever will, but it would be lovely to write something so beautiful. It would be a big change of pace for me, and as I said before even when I think I’m getting something lighter it’s usually more of a qualified happy ending, where some of the characters are still alive. In a broad sense, if you’re alive and you’ve achieved your goal then that is a happy ending; all stories end in defeat, I suppose, if you take them right to the end.

Don’t stop because things are difficult. Read very widely, both within the field you’re interested in and out of it.

Ah yes: finish what you start. Rewrite it and rewrite until you’re happy with it, you have to be your own toughest critic and your own biggest cheerleader at the same time, which is a very weird and tricky balance to get. Send your work out and keep sending your work out. Do your research ahead of time and get your list of agents or publishers, starting with the biggest names right at the top, working your way down to the smaller independent outlets. And do it in batches. And always have a fall-back position. Work out a covering letter ahead of time – they’re not hard to do – I think Stephen King has an idea for one in his book on writing. And of course, have a look on agents and publishers for what they might expect to see in a covering letter. And read the guidelines before you start. If you have all that before you begin, then it’s hard to get discouraged by the inevitable knockbacks.

If you’re incredibly lucky you might get something accepted on the first time you send something out. You’re going to have to be prepared for the knockbacks when they come though, and that endurance is ultimately what you need to have. Always be open to new ideas; if you get an invitation to do something and you’re not sure, say yes and accept the challenge. It’s not like you’re performing open heart surgery on someone – no one’s going to die if you f*ck it up. And you have to take risks in order to progress, in order to grow.

Always be open to new ideas; if you get an invitation to do something and you’re not sure, say yes and accept the challenge. It’s not like you’re performing open heart surgery on someone – no one’s going to die if you f*ck it up. And you have to take risks in order to progress, in order to grow.

That’s an interesting one. It’s a bit of both, ‘cause all of my friends are writers so we talk about this kind of stuff. But then, the writing is something that I try and get up and do it, and then go on and have the rest of my day. That’s another advantage to getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to write; by the time I’ve hit my quota for the day it’s “oh right, now I can get on with my day” sort of thing. One of the reasons I started getting up that early is for a new job, working shifts, so sometimes I’d be starting at 8 o’clock, sometimes at 10. I need about 2 or 3 hours to get that amount of writing done, so the only way to guarantee that every day is to get up at 4 o’clock.

People talk about discipline when it comes to writing, which is not a very good term; commitment I think is a better one. It’s not someone standing over you with a whip, but it’s like a relationship, you and the writing. I think of my writing not as a separate personality, but as a separate part of my brain that does this. And a lot of my end of things is to show up at the right time and let it get to work. Like I said, it’s about having a very humble attitude, pushing your own ego very far to the back.

I think of my writing, not as a separate personality, but as a separate part of my brain that does this. And a lot of my end of things is to show up at the right time and let it get to work. Like I said, it’s about having a very humble attitude, pushing your own ego very far to the back.

Until I’m recognised as some kind of literary genius or until I have lots of money or prizes kind of thing, I’m in no position to be giving myself airs and graces. But knowing this is who I am is quite a big support in many ways, and it enables you to get through some jobs that other people might think are awful and soul destroying. But at the same time, you’re never quite off-duty as a writer; everything is material; you’re constantly a camera, picking stuff up and looking at it, hiding potential ideas in it.

Brilliant. Are you ready for a quick-fire end?
Fire away!

Dracula or Frankenstein?
Mmmm… Dracula. If you’re going to go for evil, then Dracula, but none of that glittery Twilight sh*t.

Jane Eyre or Lizzie Bennet?
Couldn’t give a flying f*ck about either of them.

Poetry – yay or nay?
Yay. Poetry’s great. Shakespeare, Shelley…

Typing or handwriting things?
Both. Typing is quicker so that’s often for a longer thing like a novel. I do like the physical feel of handwriting, especially with a fountain pen where you can see the ink glisten on the page.

Favourite season?
Autumn. And season 2 of Blake 7 is pretty awesome, although my other half will never accept the appeal of Blake 7. 4th season of The Wire, definitely.

Kindle or paper?
Probably paper. I do quite like Kindle, but you can’t beat reading a proper book.

Fan of Shakespeare?
Hell yes!

Okay, and finally – spaghetti. Do you curl it up and put it on a spoon, chop it up, or shovel?
I’m divided. Usually shovel. Occasional use a spoon. Chopping up is for heathens.

Yeah! Thank you so much for the interview, it was fantastic.

Thank you!

Interview with Anthony Anaxagorou

It’s not every day you get to interview one of your writing heroes, let alone someone you’ve watched, (or should I say listened to), obsessively on YouTube in the months leading up to meeting them.  I have to confess, I binge watch spoken word of an evening (in breaks from homework, of course!), and British born Cypriot heritage poet, Anthony Anaxagorou, is a favourite of mine. Anthony’s work and voice, is instantly recognisable through poems such as ‘If I Told You’, ‘I Am Not A Poet’, and ‘You’.

I was lucky enough to get an Arts Award interview with Anthony recently while he was over in Sheffield for a performance at Sheffield Hallam University (thanks to Hassun El Zafar for supporting this).  Here, among other things, Anthony talks to me about his writing journey, why he’s interested is particular themes and issues in his work, and why poetry is his arithmetic of choice.

Interview Alliyah Begum | Camera: Warda Yassin | With thanks to: Sheffield Hallam University, Hassun El Zafar & of course, Anthony Anaxagorou.

Congratulations – Hear My Voice

eloise win2
Ian McMillan & Eloise Unerman, 16

A huge congratulations to 16 year old Eloise Unerman from Hive’s Rotherham Young Writers, winner of 1st place in the Hear My Voice Poetry Competition on the theme of home judged by poet, Ian McMillian. And to Ellie Kilkenny, also 16, from Barnsley Young Writers who was commended. Nice work, great poems!

Eloise bagged herself a rather lovely Kindle and Ian fed back saying her poem was full of strong imagery and that he could see the burnt toast in the first line!

Congratulations also to everyone else who won or was commended in the various age categories – If you entered and didn’t win, don’t shy away from trying again with future competitions. South Yorkshire clearly has talent!

Hear My Voice is a 3 year project for the people of Barnsley to express themselves through poetry, the written and spoken word.

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Elizabeth Photography, Barnsley: charlotteelizabethphotography.com

 

Arvon Hive Young Writers residential

Hive is excited to announce a week-long Arvon rural writing residential at the beautiful Arvon Lumb Bank Writing Centre, West Yorkshire, taking place this Easter (10th-15th April), and open to young writers who attend a Hive young writers group in Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.

“Arvon Lumb Bank is life-changing for any young person with an interest in writing. It massively changed how I saw myself as a writer and what I was capable of.”
Katherine Henderson, Rotherham Young Writers, aged 17, 2011

This is an amazing opportunity to develop your writing, work with top published writers and meet and make friends with other young writers from across the region who share similar interests.

IMG_8010At Lumb Bank you’ll enjoy:
* A wide range of writing workshops led by professional writers to fire your imagination
* Relaxed time to write in breath-taking surroundings with plenty of great walks and corners of the house to curl up and write in including a well-stocked library
* One-to-one support and guidance on your writing from top writers and authors who will share some of their own work and their writing journeys
* Amazing home-cooked food, cosy bedrooms, a barn come -office/performance space, a piano, and a real fire!

About Lumb Bank 
Untitled-5The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank is a huge 18th-century mill-owner’s house in West Yorkshire, that once belonged to the late, great Ted Hughes. The house stands in 20 beautiful acres of steep woodland and has a breath-taking view to the valley below –  a Pennine landscape of woods and rivers, weavers’ cottages, packhorse trails and ruins of old mills. Lumb Bank is half a mile from the historic village of Heptonstall, where the poet, and wife of Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath is buried in the village grave yard, and two miles from Hebden Bridge.

Writers for the week

peterPeter Sansom – Poet
Peter Sansom is a poet and tutor, and co-directs the Poetry Business along with his wife, the poet Ann Sansom.  He has published six books of poetry include On the Pennine Way (Littlewood, 1988) and Careful What You Wish For (Carcanet, 2015). He is also the author of the influential book, Writing Poems (Bloodaxe 1994).

Peter co-edits The North Magazine and Smith/Doorstop Books. His poetry commissions include work for The Guardian, The Observer, Radio Three, and a billboard in the centre of Lancaster.

Over many years, Peter has led writing workshops with writers of all ages and stages of their writing journeys. He taught the MA Poetry at Huddersfield for 10 years, was Fellow in Creative Writing at Leeds University, and leads monthly Writing Days and the advanced Writing School course at The Poetry Business.

tiffTiffany Murray – Novelist
Tiffany Murray has published three novels – Happy Accidents (Harper Perennial 2005) and Diamond Star Halo (Portobello 2011) have both been short-listed for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. The Guardian selected Diamond Star Halo in their novels of the year. David Mitchell listed her latest novel, Sugar Hall, (Seren 2015) in his ‘6 Favourite Ghost Stories’ (The Week), and her fourth novel, The Girl Who Talked to Birds, is set in Iceland. The Guardian called her ‘the glam rock Dodie Smith’ and selected Diamond Star Halo as one of ‘the best’ in their pick of 2010 Fiction. Sugar Hall, a ghost story, is her latest novel (Seren 2015).

Tiffany is the editor of Fill Your Heart: Writers on Bowie andshe is also working on a memoir, The Rock n’ Roll Cook, about growing up with Queen and Black Sabbath sleeping in your house.  She studied at New York University and the University of East Anglia, where she gained her doctorate. Tiffany has written for The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and the Guardian. Tiffany has been a Hay Festival Fiction fellow, a Fulbright scholar and a Senior Creative Writing Lecturer at the University of Glamorgan.

Visiting writer – mid-week reading

hannahyHannah Lowe
Hannah Lowe was born in Ilford, Essex to an English mother and a Chinese/Jamaican father.  Her first poetry collection Chick  (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection and was short-listed for the Forward, Aldeburgh and Seamus Heaney Best First Collection Prizes. In September 2014, she was named as one of 20 Next Generation poets. Her second collection Chan, was published in 2015 (Bloodaxe).

Her family memoir Long Time, No See was published by Periscope in July 2015 and featured as Radio 4’s Book of the Week. She has also published three chapbooks:  The Hitcher (Rialto 2012) R x (sine wave peak 2013) and Ormonde (Hercules Editions 2014)

Hannah is known for her narrative poetry celebrating the multicultural life of London in the eighties and nineties. She writes with a strong sense of place, voice, and emotional subtlety.

IMG_9020hWho can apply?
This residential is open to young writers who attend a Hive South Yorkshire young writers group in Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.  All creative writing interests are welcome, from poetry to novel and script.

Places are limited / Application only
For an application form & cost, email: kate@hivesouthyorkshire.com 

Deadline for applications:  16th March 2017   
This Arvon Course is part funded and subsidised by Arvon and Hive South Yorkshire

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The Arvon Tate Word Exchange

iramAs a young writer of poetry, fiction and script based in Doncaster, I was thrilled at the opportunity to take part in the Arvon Word Exchange, a three-day Tate Exchange residency based at Tate Modern in London. The Exchange, led by Arvon in conjunction with Tate Exchange, and in partnership with Hive South Yorkshire and the Writing Squad, was a chance for me to write alongside 14 other budding young writers with the same passion and ambitions as myself. It was also an opportunity to make new work and connections, gain inspiration and confidence, and receive feedback from professional writers. What more could I want?! So, here’s how it went down…

Write up by Iram Ahmed

Firstly, I have to say, it was so uplifting to see an opportunity this juicy for young writers in South Yorkshire popping up in my social media feeds. I felt excited and set about selecting a portfolio of my writing and overcame the daunting task of writing about myself in the application. It wasn’t long before I got an email stating it had paid off, and I had earned myself a place – I seriously could not have been happier!

Day 1 – Meet the Hive Squad
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Travelling from Sheffield and Doncaster, the Hive crew (myself, Dom, Gina, Salma, and Vicky from Hive), rolled into London with anticipation. After a fascinating conversation with a taxi driver, who entertained us in the hope of a decent tip, Becky Swain from Arvon greeted us at the entrance to the Tate Modern. The place was HUGE and there was a buzz in the air of life and excitement. It was as if the whole of London knew of our visit and decided to come and join us. As we walked into the back of the Turbine Hall, kids on half-term break rolled and laughed their way down the carpeted walk area. In the background Philippe Parreno’s Anywhen Exhibition glowed and hummed with mechanical breath.

IMG_6739Introductions were made and the Hive five very quickly integrated with the writers from the Squad through a series of team exercises to get our writing juices flowing! – Little did we know that this would be the start of some amazing pieces of creative writing, friendships and memories.  The warm-ups were facilitated by our mentors; Sarah Butler and Jacob Sam-La Rose, both published writers, and two very talented individuals who led us straight into the depths of the Tate with one simple mission – to unleash our creativity!

The rest of the day was filled with an eclectic range of writing exercises to really get us thinking about the space and the first exhibitions we’d seen. The best part? The ingenuous use of a whole lot of Post-its!

Day 2 – The Tate Modern
IMG_6699Pull up a window seat (by that I mean, lounge against the huge window frames and nosy out into the glass-sided postmodern apartments across the way), or pick a spot on the floor by an art piece and zone out; we were becoming very familiar, very quickly with the Tate, Floor 5 in particular. This became our writing hub, our source of inspiration navigation (even more Post-it notes!) and our home over the 3 days. Here we were pretty high up so we could enjoy a big slice of the London skyline, including the iconic Shard building spiking up through the chaos. On the other side, the Thames and St. Paul’s offered a bit of tranquility from the rush of the city.

With everyone familiar with each other, following a really productive first day and a lovely evening IMG_6871dmeal together, the project began to intensify quickly and before we knew it everyone was in the zone and up for whatever experimentation came our way. Along with wandering in and out of exhibitions, ogling works of art in turns wonderful, strange and puzzling, we were assigned writing tasks to stimulate ideas and put our writers’ pens to the test.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis day was a real highlight for me. By now, there was a real sense of union throughout the collaborated HiveSquad. The group frequently met up to talk and share ideas, giving everyone an insight into each other’s creative journey and we were able to start seeing how different exhibitions and idea were being interpreted through our own writing and creative themes. Everyone’s approaches were all so varied, it was really amazing to see how diverse our thinking was.

In the afternoon there was an opportunity to invite members of the public to interact or get involved in our writing. Some people shied away from this, preferring to go and zone out writing in one of the many galleries, others relished in the energy of talking to complete strangers about what they were doing. Some, like Dominic and Laura, made good use of passersby with various questions about the nature of art or what they thought of an exhibition. There was also chance to sign up for one-to-ones with Sarah and Jacob where we could ask them advice about our own writing journeys. For me, this was a great refresher for things I had forgotten, such editing tips to improve my writing.

IMG_6832fDay 3 – The Showcase
Our final day at the Tate Modern was another lovely day in London, the weather had totally been on our side the whole time and the short walk from the hotel to the Tate was always a pleasurable one. We’d chatter amongst ourselves about what we have learnt, what we’re working on, and what we’re expecting from the day. This, though, as our final day, was a busy one.  At 6pm, come what may, we would be sharing something of our writing residency with anyone who wanted to join us.

The day started with a prompt exercise taking us on a further exploration of the galleries within the gallery. No matter how many times I would venture off, there was always an exhibition I’d stumble upon that I hadn’t seen before. Jacob and Sarah provided a steady stream of writing and editing exercises (and Post-it inspiration!), to keep us going through the day, but we were left simply to write.

It was during this time that some of the material I had written over the last couple of days began to take shape and some real first drafts were emerging!

A extra little highlight during a break from writing was going up to Floor 10 quickly in the staff lift (bypassing the crowds), to get a higher and more panoramic view of the skyline. It was a lovely clear, bright day and we could see in every window. So many stories within them!

6pm rolled up and there we were, taking over the whole of Floor 5, along with Trinity Laban dancers and musicians, and a huge audience of public we had never seen before! The Word Exchange did our thing first with Jacob introducing the project and each of us to the floor.

IMG_6849Everyone, even those who didn’t feel quite ready(!), read some of the writing we’d been working on through the Exchange with a little info about our creative process and the journey we’d been on. You couldn’t get a more receptive and attentive public who appeared to completely love our showcase! Personally, I was terrified – but I did it. I read out a poem and it felt amazing.  Being amongst such a talented group of writers, and the support and encouragement they gave, made the evening all the more special.

IMG_6892And we were all so proud of each other. Everyone had tackled something different. There were questionings about the nature of art, the world of the Squid (even drawings to go with it), a piece written using the time restraint of how long people had stayed to view a piece of art, even a piece made for and presented as an audio tannoy announcement. Together we were innovative, funny, moving and a huge success.  People came over and commented on how much they had enjoyed our work and everyone was elated.

Saying goodbye
Towards the end of the trip, I realised just how much confidence the Word Exchange experience had given me. To be amongst a group of people I had never met before, all outside of our comfort zones, and, being able to express my own ideas with support in this way, was a new and eye-opening thing for me. What a great idea to take a group of young aspiring writers and dropped us into the middle of one of the most creative places in London and say – Write! It worked. I came home with a notebook full of new material and ideas that will keep my writing going for a good while yet.

It’s rare to access an opportunity to surround yourself with other young minds who share the same passion and interests as you, but this trip allowed me to do just that. I would recommend an Arvon course to all aspiring writers who, like me, are maybe insecure or doubt their own writing but are big for a new challenge. One of the things I remember being said was ‘Don’t be afraid to write what you want’ and it’s a phrase that I hope will stay with me as I continue on my writing journey, because, no one can write the way any of us can and that’s what gives us the potential to write something truly original.

What I felt was so great about this project was the absence of pressure to share work publically, and that we had the chance to go away and work on our own, yet the support of writers was there when we needed it.  Despite my fears, the Word Exchange made me want to share my writing and that’s largely due to the reassurance I took from others.

Arvon well and truly spoilt us and we were treated to amazing dinners and refreshments to keep us sustained during some intense writing sessions. The Word Exchange was a writing programme I would most definitely love to experience again. I wouldn’t have to think twice about it!

Thank you to everyone from Hive South Yorkshire, Arvon and the Writing Squad for making this the most memorable writing opportunity possible.

Arvon is a national creative writing charity that produces residential and city-based creative writing courses and retreats for schools, groups and individuals. Founded in 1968, many of the UK’s most prominent writers have taught on Arvon courses, including Carol Ann Duffy, Malorie Blackman and Simon Armitage. www.arvon.org

The Writing Squad is the North’s professional development programme for emerging young writers www.writingsquad.com

Hive South Yorkshire is the new hub for young writers (14 to 25) in the South Yorkshire region. Whether you like to write as a hobby, want to express yourself better with words, or are focused on a writing career – Hive is here to help young writers reach their potential.

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Horror & Fantasy Writers’ Day – with Simon Bestwick & KT Davies

Hive Young Writers’ Day (Now booked out, but let us know if you missed out + your interests and we’ll put you on a list to contact you when something of interest to you comes up)
Horror & Fantasy genre writing with Simon Bestwick & KT Davies
When: Saturday 25th Feb – from 10.30 to 4.30pm
Where: Sheffield, Institute of Learning, Charlies St (5 minutes for Sheffield train & bus station)
Open to: 14 to 25s from across South Yorkshire (Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley & Doncaster areas).

Love writing that makes the himagesairs on your arms stand on end? Or do you like to get lost in other worlds? Perhaps you’re just curious about genre fiction in general. If so, our February writers’ day is set to be a real treat with, not one, but, two brilliant genre writers – Simon Bestwick described as “Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror” (Ramsey Campbell), and Fantasy writer, KT Davies, whose last novel, Breed was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Best Novel Award.

Simon and KT will explain a little of their writing journeys, read some of their work, and offer a range of practical exercises and tips to hone your writing skills – from sourcing and adapting ideas, and creating characters who spring into life from the page (monsters too), to constructing stories and fantasy worlds.

siSimon Bestwick has spent 20 years writing all things horror (and occasional crime & Sci-Fi). He’s published 5 novels, 6 novellas and numerous short stories. He’s also written radio plays, has been twice shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award and reprinted in The Best Horror of the Year.

His books include the Black Road series, The Faceless and The Feast of All Souls. He lives on the Wirral with his long-suffering wife, the author Cate Gardner, and uses far too many semicolons. You can follow his author page here.

The_Faceless“Bestwick is brilliant” – The Guardian
“Simon Bestwick writes with great imaginative flair and an excellent grasp of colour and narrative pace” – The Telegraph
“Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror” – Ramsey Campbell, author of The Grin of the Dark and The Searching Dead

KTKT Davies has published two fantasy novels, The Red Knight, and Breed, which was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Best Novel Award. She also writes short stories that have been published in various anthologies including Fight like a Girl.

KT also works as a ghost writer and has reviewed books and games for SFcrowsnest. She’s guest edited for the British Science Fiction Assobreedciation, and Focus magazine, and runs a genre writing group called the Inkflingers.

KT games, plays with swords and has a lifetime membership of Club Nerd. She somehow blagged a 1st in Literature and has worked as an actor, scaffolder, teacher, and until recently, a theatrical prop maker. Born in the wilds of Yorkshire (or ‘the North’ for Game of Thrones fans), KT now lives in the West Midlands with a grumpy cat, four dogs, two children, and a husband (hers as it turns out). www.kdavies.net

Cost: £5 full day (with refreshments but not lunch included).
Discounts: Hive is particularly keen to encourage young people who wouldn’t normally access this type of opportunity, and there are always discounts available for a number of places to support individuals who may be unable to pay in full, or to support travel costs within the South Yorkshire region. Please get in touch ASAP before places fill up if that sounds like you.

Booking: To book a place on this Writers’ Day, email kate@hivesouthyorkshire.com
Where: The Institute of Education, Charles Street Sheffield. This is just off Arundel Gate and Arundel Street, 5 minutes from Sheffield train & bus stations.
Someone will be there to greet people at the reception from 10.15am. Charles Street Building info here
Google map info here: 133 Charles Street, Sheffield S1 2ND
…..
Hive Young Writers’ Days
Hive Young Writers’ Days are a chance for young writers, whatever your interest and ability, to develop your writing with support from professional writers, while meeting other young writers, and getting involved in the Hive young writers’ network.

Hive Young Writers’ Days are open to young people 14 to 25 (more or less! if that’s not quite you but you’d like to come, get in touch with: kate@hivesouthyorkshire.com)
For more about our writers’ days click here.

Image courtesy of Daniel  Lee – A Castle in Luxembourg, Vianden

Satdee Poetry (for 16-25s) FREE

Satdee Poetry
Monthly, for: young people 16 to 25 yrs from across Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster & Barnsley (who do not attend a Hive group in South Yorkshire)
All interests & abilites welcome.
Next session: Saurday 8th April 4-6pm
Where: Sheffield Hallam Uni (5 minutes from the train station, Howard Street, central building)
FREE

Write poems, read poems, enjoy poems, get ideas and be inspired by others who buzz off the same thing if a really lovely, relaxed atmosphere. All abilities and levels welcome. This is a once a month Saturday workshop to top up your creative groove!

Interested? Email Kate@hivesouthyorkshire.com to put your name down, and get directions to where it’s at!
Sessions are FREE to encourage young people to travel from across South Yorkshire to attend. If travel costs are an issue, let us know.
Facebook event here